I wait in the black.
I can feel that my form is ethereal, but I am not burdened with fear or confusion. I wait for a length of time I cannot fathom. Strangely, I am not concerned about the passage of time, only what awaits me.
Strangeness begins in the darkness. Luminescent hues of orange slowly come into view, as like the afterglow of a dead fire, chasing away the darkness around me. The light creeps in spindly patterns around me; its movement an imitation of life. The mystery of my situation is revealed slowly as I see that I am in a large hall. I cannot remember how I came to be here or where I was before. The illumination reveals patterns on the stone walls; thick murals in the style of my people. They tell a story I cannot understand, but my attention is taken by the moving vision of light.
The last place in the hall to become illuminated is my fore. The weak yellow light creeps from the left and from the right, meeting at the centre and revealing a great door of such opulence as I had never set eyes upon.
A rumble as like thunder emanates from beyond the door and the fear of the unexpected grips me. I can feel something great is about to unravel, for my ethereal form has only now begun to coalesce into substance. I cannot feel the process, but it does not strike me as odd. It is a sure precursor to the use of my senses.
A beam of perpendicular light appears at the centre of the giant double doors, and it takes me a moment to realize that the door has slightly opened, and that beyond it lies an area of dazzling brightness. I bring up my hand to shield my face as the width of the light widens. It is like I am in the presence of the Sun. The light stabs my eyes behind my closed lids,then it suddenly dims.
I flutter my eyes open to behold a slender silhouette, for the light is still visible beyond it. From its shoulders to its feet is the likeness of a man and from its neck up is of an animal with which I am familiar, but cannot place. From this distance, I somehow understand that the visitor is only slightly taller than me, and though I cannot see it clearly, I can feel the lordship of its presence. It steps forward into the room.
He approaches me, illumination from the source-less yellow light in the room being thrown upon his form as he draws near. I see him clearly now. I know this being. I have known him since my infancy when I was taught by the great pedagogues. I nearly fall to my knees in adoration.
He is now in front of my still form, looking as regal as the old kings. His Jackal eyes glow blue in the dim yellow light, lending an air of solemnity to this scene. I am not afraid, only now curious as to the crux of my appointment with this magnificent one. Then I hear the sound of his voice.
“I am He Who Sits upon His Mountain, The keeper of Divine Justice; I shall lead you to your place”
I know this being. I am awestruck as I take in his form. His name echoes in my mind.
Inpu, known to the unlearned as Anubis, Lord of the Underworld.
The Lord of the dead is before me. Then it occurs to me. If I stand in the presence of Lord Anubis, this must mean-
“Follow me, the Judges wait”
My feet move as of their own accord while Anubis turns his back on me and moves towards the great door, towards the light. I follow him diligently, my face turning neither to the left nor to the right.
In due course, we move through the great door and I find myself in a small room that is well lit by a white light which point of origin I cannot fathom. My eyes do not squint, curiously, and I can see all who are present in the room.
All five of them.
They all seem like men in form and substance. This room is much smaller than the great hall erstwhile I had found myself.
There was a great stone table in the centre of it, curving like a half-moon. Seated on the other side of the table were the five. The one in the centre, the third, had the visage of a great pharaoh, for his gold-plastered garment was in symmetry with those of the old kings. In his presence was a scale made of the finest gold which reflected the white light perfectly so that it doesn’t seem like gold anymore. But I know it is gold, for gold is the air I breathe.
The one in the centre, I know him now. Osiris. He looks a moment at my face and opens his mouth. His voice rolls out like the gushing of the Nile.
“Until your judgement is passed, nameless you shall stay;
Until your hour is come, perfect you shall stand.
Until your weight is seen, in pain you shall grieve;
Until your end is known, immortal you shall live.”
Anubis, who has been standing behind me, moves forward. I can feel his movement but I am not inclined to turn my head to see him, for an unknown agency has stiffened me.
The pain cuts through me. I feel what seems like a cold hand reach into my back and enclose my heart. I raise my head to the ceiling in expression of my anguish and serendipity shocks me. An innumerable array of hearts hangs from thin strings from the ceiling. The cold hand of Anubis exits my body, and I know that he has my heart in it; I now remember what the scales are for. My chest still throbs with great pain but this I must see.
Anubis moves past me with dignified purpose and reaches the scales. Time is not to be wasted in this place, for there are others who will come after me. I now see that there is a feather on one disc of the scales. My bloodied heart is placed on the other disc of the scale and an impossible apprehension grips me, for I am without a rapidly beating heart to signal its presence. Anubis moves back to his previous station and my glance rests on the scales. The five look upon it with great interest. The two sides of the scale are equal. I had heard of this stage a long time ago but the sight of it marvels me. The single feather is as heavy as my heart! This means that I have been deemed worthy-
The side with the feather suddenly ascends as my heart goes down quickly and tumbles off the scale onto the stone table. The movement seems to surprise the five judges slightly, for they almost imperceptibly shift their heads. I note all through my agony from the loss of my heart.
By the measure of the Judges I have been deemed unworthy to enter into the paradise of my fathers. I know what my fate is, but I shall not deem to bring it to the fore of my consciousness.
As with one voice, the five who were seated said unto me,
“Thy heart is heavier than the measure of goodness;
Thy deeds are weightier than the feather of Right
Thy end waits in the jaws of Aranik;
Thy cycle ends with her rousing from slumber”
“Come hither,” Anubis says from behind me and turns towards the great door through which we had first come.
In this place, resistance is a study in futility, for my legs move me through my agony. My fear must be apparent to all present. I remember, with growing irritation mixed with my pain, the now seemingly pointless hours spent chanting the verses from the Book of the dead that would ensure the possibility of my cheating of the scales.
The cities were not being built as fast as he wanted. The Amalek slaves were getting weaker as time went on. The officials bring the report to my father in fear, for his anger is known to leave sorrow in its wake. He arose from his throne of solid gold and Ivory and cursed them. He commanded them to use a few of the slaves as example. Asophe must be completed before the commemoration of my eighteenth year of life. Five years. His anger seeps out of his eyes, and the officials scurry out before He commands them to commit suicide. Some of the new officials live only as long the interval between a bad report and another.
I had been at his feet since the sun god began his journey across the sky, and now he was at the centre of it, and yet I had not set my eyes on my beloved sister, Zirafeni who is my elder by two cycles and in whose third cycle my mother ascended to the stars.
I excused myself and went in search of her. Perhaps we will find fun in talking about my father’s recent ire.
She was alone in her chamber studying the constellations of the planets and smiled when I entered. We make arrangement.
I have now moved through the door, Lord Anubis at my helm. The great hall is swallowed up in inky blackness once again but I can find my footing. My chest still aches but the fear of what is to come dulls the pain considerably.
We are standing at the point where I was when I first came to this place. Before us, an illumination takes effect. I had not turned behind me to look when I had first come here but I am not sure I would have seen it if I had.
It lies prone on the granite floor and opens its eyes as the mysterious light which has no source hits it. It is like a cat in whose body is also the likeness of a jackal. Its beak open in eager anticipation of the meal that is to come as its avian head glares at my form. Aranik, the Sphinx. Devourer of iniquity.
Later that night, I crept under the cover of darkness, past the glowing torches to her chamber. Her arms pulled me in and her lips gave me the succour I sought in them. We had spent two moons like this but I never tired of her body. The servant girls could never be like her.
The lanterns threw yellow light and faint shadows about the place and we exulted in the oneness of our union. Her rising chest gave me incentive and my concentration was on her pleasure.
And there stood my father, just inside the door. His countenance was as one who was about to die in suddenness. His face looked terrible in the yellow light. He was not a young man anymore, for even my sister had been born at a late time.
I withdrew from my sister as my father fell on the hard ground. I did not need to inquire. I knew what had happened. As a son of iron, I removed regret and sorrow as my brain went into play. It was night, and none was about. His room was near. His bed expected him.
I look around me in fear. Anubis is no longer here. This is not life, and I have no chance of prevailing against the edict of the gods. My pain is as something forgotten. My sin will not go unpunished. My sister’s worried face as I thrashed upon my death bed, surrounded by the greatest physicians in all Egypt, comes to me. The beak advances toward me rapidly. I remember my sister smiling faintly as my Ka left my body into the ethereal.
I am Hetsut-ra .Pharaoh of Egypt I was, for three cycles. Short was the length of my days.